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Red Faction: Guerilla XBox 360 Review - -

Gameplay 8.5
Graphics 8.5
Sound 8.0
Value 8.5
Distributor: THQ
Review Date:
June 2009
Mark Arnold


Red Faction: Guerilla

Red Faction: Guerrilla is the third in the Red Faction series which began back in 2001 and was famous for its “GeoMod” technology which granted the player nearly limitless terrain destruction capabilities with explosive weapons.  Especially in 2001 this was quite impressive but to survive in 2009 the series is going to need more than that gimmick.  Fortunately it borrows some good elements from other games, gives them its own spin and it all combines into a pretty fun joy-ride.

This game is one of those free-form slash adventure slash sandbox style games.  It’s a style that I could go on to say can be upgraded from “GTA Clone” to “genre” in its own right by now.  Anyway, if you imagine GTA 3 or 4, but instead of a city imagine a mining colony and instead blocks of pavement and bitumen you imagine miles of Mars’ red soil, then you have a pretty good idea of how the game plays.  Overall it is definitely a fun game, but compared the king and original game – GTA – it’s lacking polish.

You play Alec Mason: a new immigrant to Mars who joins up with his brother to earn some honest mining bucks.  Within a few short moments your brother is killed for his involvement in the Red Faction terrorist organisation and before you know it you’ve got a reason to blow things up in the name of terrorism justice, and the Red Faction trusts you implicitly, naturally.  With the pesky storyline out of the way all that remains is for you to steal futuristic mining trucks and buggies and the like and blow things up.

Although you essentially have complete freedom you are, of course, directed by a good variety of missions.  Most of them do revolve around blowing things up – that’s where the games strongest mechanic lies – but there is a bunch of different things to do such as freeing and escorting hostages, building destruction, defense missions, parcel interception, etc. 

Each area of Mars is controlled by the evil EDF military dictatorship (easily side-stepping the touchy issue of being a terrorist bomber by making the opponent unambiguously naughty) and you can pick from any of the side missions scattered around the map to reduce their control on the area.  You can literally just drive around and blow up targets of opportunity but you get a lot of bonus control points for picking targets that are marked as priority targets and for successfully completing the side missions.  Alongside the “control” rating is a “morale” meter which is a gameplay mechanic that punishes you for being too reckless, and rewards you for putting the stick to the bad guys.  Essentially when you complete missions, or destroy certain objects (like propaganda billboards) the area’s “morale” metre will increase.  With higher morale there is a chance that nearby miners (essentially innocent civilians) will join you when they see you in a gun fight with the EDF.  Conversely you lose moral for dying or killing the miners.  It’s a good mechanic because it grants a decent perk, without punishing you too severely for dying or going crazy – as you are want to do.  Once you have reduced the area’s control to zero and completed all the main story-line missions you unlock the next zone.

Now Red Faction does several things well, and a few things excellently.  It also has a fair share of things it does fairly poorly.  The world itself is a fairly sparsely populated Mars.  There are no real side-streets or alleys for you to take.  It’s largely open roads with a few trucks on them.  You can have a bit of fun jumping red rocks and the like, but it’s not an interesting environment.  There is a pretty tight limitation on the number of vehicles you can control – how many different versions of “futuristic mining vehicle” can YOU think of?  Lastly, the storyline is passable but lacks any characterisation to draw you in and care about the people you talk or interact with (or even with the main character.)

Having said that the one element I’ve been saving until last to talk about is the destruction physics in this game.  They are truly spectacular and every element of the game is geared towards realising that.  Although it is unlike the original Red Faction in that you can’t damage the terrain, what you can do to the vehicles and buildings is nearly limitless – and most importantly very believable.  You always have a trusty sledgehammer that allows you smash things like you are the incredible hulk and the first time you use it on a simple concrete wall to bash a way through you’ll be impressed with their crumbling and destruction physics.  As you bash out the load bearing walls of a building and watch parts of it realistically collapse you should be suitably awed.  When the rest of the building, made unstable from your reckless and wanton destruction, shudders then tumbles down on your head bit-by-bit, you’ll be chortling with glee.  Never before has the childhood joy of destroying perfectly good things been so accurately realised.  It leads to some fun moments too – like the time I parked a car with a turret next to a tower.  I used the turret to shoot up some explosives next to the base of the tower taking out a good chuck.  After a few seconds I saw the tower start to topple – directly at me.  Fearing the physics were too good to allow me to survive parked in a car directly in its path I climbed out and tried to make a run for it.  I didn’t make it, but I did laugh at length.

Linked with the destruction mechanics is the salvage mechanic.  Essentially salvage is the currency on Mars, and as you destroy structures and vehicles a few extra shiny pieces will spew out and you can collect them.  Once you have enough you can head back to your safehouse where you can upgrade and buy new weapons.  There’s a decent selection too including a few different takes on the “explosive” variety which is handy considering the amount of exploding you need to do.  Also the combat is decent, similar to what I’m sure you’d expect in this style of game.  You can take some cover on flat walls or vehicles and fire around them.  You can shoot, snipe, run down, and blow up people in many different ways.... but honestly, it’s a shooter on a console, so how good can it get?

Red Faction: Guerrilla might be missing the polish of GTA IV, but it gets the core elements right and its stand out feature does an excellent job of making it stand out.  The storyline is passable, but might not be the driving factor that keeps bringing you back.  The sheer amount of joyful destruction you can cause – either through carefully placed charges or through a wild frenzy of RPGs – will take some time to become boring.  There’s certainly enough here to make Red Faction: Guerrilla a fun enough game, if not a game-breaking one and it’d go damn close to being worth a purchase too.


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